Who Watches the Watchers?

Little did I know or expect that today I’d be challenged by a state employee for editing and writing on this blog. You see, it’s genealogy day at the Oregon State Library. It’s the second Saturday of each month.

I’ve been going to the library on-and-off for decades, during normal hours on weekdays and the one Saturday a month. So I was a bit taken aback when the employee manning the front desk approached me abruptly and asked:

“Are you working on genealogy? We are open for genealogy today, and genealogy only.”

He was so aggressive and rude. This really got my blood going. How about minding your own damn business?

“I’m writing about my grandfather on my blog. Is that okay with you?”

What a prick. I asked for his name and then he extended his hand for a shake, as if we were old friends, all the while smiling and saying “Michael, my name is Michael.” How fast can you demonstrate being disingenuous? I think Michael has the world record on that one.

Sure I get distracted and do non-genealogy stuff on occasion. Not today though. I was on task, writing from my notes that I took while visiting Grandma in the hospital yesterday, until Michael Thommen so rudely interrupted and questioned me, like any good Nazi. What gives him the right to check on what I’m doing?

He offered a complaint form along with two business cards: his own and that of his supervisor. Buried underneath this was a half-sheet of light blue paper detailing what information is available to access. At the bottom reads: “Access to web sites that do not fit the purpose of this service may not be available. (12/2007)”

I’d sure like to know who developed this policy and the totally reprehensible surveillance which accompanies it. Am I in America or Hitler’s Germany or some failed nation-state with a third-rate despot in Africa?

So why are state employees reading and watching what folks are doing while using the public computers? I’ve never seen any state worker stealthily observe what someone does on his own laptop using the library’s wireless signal. But then who’s to say they aren’t.

Oops. I gotta run. The State Library Gestapo is coming. You see, I ain’t supposed to be writin’ any of this. It’s not genealogy-related.


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